Arsenal miss Saka and Smith Rowe talent in Liverpool defeat - but Xhaka and Luiz absences felt just as key

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Simon Collings
·3-min read
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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It says a lot about the performance of Arsenal’s players on the pitch against Liverpool, that come the full-time whistle you were left thinking about those off it.

Arsenal were without Bukayo Saka, David Luiz, Emile Smith Rowe and Granit Xhaka for this match, which ended in a 3-0 win for Liverpool, and it showed.

They were blown away by the Reds, who were worthy winners and, even before they took the lead in the 64th minute through Diogo Jota, were in complete control.

Fabinho and Thiago ran the show in midfield, while ahead of them the attack looked like the one of old - as Mohamed Salah bagged the second goal. By the time Jota got the third in the 82nd minute, the towel had already been thrown in by Arsenal.

They say you often learn more from defeat than victory and Mikel Arteta will have surely learned a few things from this loss - namely that the drop-off in some areas of his squad is concerning.

Xhaka, who, let’s be honest, isn’t the most popular figure among Arsenal supporters, was a big miss and, for all his faults, the stability he offers in the middle of the park would’ve been useful.

In his absence, Dani Ceballos struggled both in and out of possession and the fact he was taken off before the hour mark says it all.

Getty Images
Getty Images

In defence, Luiz’s absence was noticeable - particularly for his ability on the ball. Liverpool’s press was relentless, pinning Arsenal in. They needed someone to hit an out-ball over the top, to set Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Nicolas Pepe away.

That is something Luiz can do, but without him Arsenal struggled and eventually they caved.

Going forward, enough has already been said about the quality of Saka and Smith Rowe but tonight they improved their reputation by not even playing.

Arteta will want them - and Luiz and Xhaka - back fast.

Tierney gives Arsenal an injury scare

There are few players in this Arsenal squad who you could say are irreplaceable, but Kieran Tierney is one of them. The Gunners have no other out-and-out left-back in their ranks and if Tierney is to be out for an extended period of time, that is a major concern.

He limped off against Liverpool here after a strong tackle from James Milner left him feeling his knee. Some treatment from the physio followed, but Tierney quickly decided he wasn’t able to carry on.

It was no surprise that Liverpool’s goals came after the Scot went off, with all three of them coming down his flank, too.

POOL/AFP via Getty Images
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Until then, Tierney had been doing a solid job of taming Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold but when he went off they ran riot.

Arsenal will hope that Tierney can somehow be back for Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final first leg with Slavia Prague as, if not, Cedric Soares will likely have to fill in there.

The Portugal international has done so admirably when called upon this season but, simply put, he cannot offer the same as Tierney. Arsenal and Arteta will have their fingers crossed any injury is not serious.

Arsenal will hope for no hangover ahead of Prague tie

Everyone knows Arsenal’s focus is the Europa League, but they will hope after tonight there is no hangover from the Premier League.

Liverpool outplayed them, grinding them into the ground, and ahead of a crucial European tie that is hardly good preparation.

They must quickly dust themselves down and get back on their feet as any hangover cannot be allowed at a time like now. Arsenal have too much to lose.

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